Raging Boy

Punching The Other

"Now who discovered America? An Italian, right? What would be better than to get it on with one of his descendants?"
-Apollo Creed, 

From an objective standpoint, Logan Paul’s horrific lack of judgment in Aokigahara cost him a great deal. Now excluded from the Google Preferred ad program, dropped from two YouTube Premium shows, and 60,000 subscribers below the previous day’s gain, Paul was disconnected from the dominant hegemonic male identity through loss of power. When KSI challenged him to a boxing match the day before his return to vlogging, Logan Paul seized the opportunity to prove himself through combat. The public acts of boxing and training for a fight provided Paul an avenue to reclaim his dominant identity and redeem his masculinity, all in one fell swoop.

In "Eating The Other", master theorist bell hooks speaks briefly of "fucking [as] a way to confront the Other, as well as a way to... leave behind white 'innocence' and enter the world of 'experience'" (hooks, 368). Mason continues this work in the digital age, noting the "Humanitarians of Tinder" are made attractive through "encounters with others, and especially through the intent to return to whiteness" (Mason, 832).  I wish to draw this thinking toward Michael Messner's formative essay, “Masculinities and Athletic Careers”, in order to elucidate how exactly punching a Black Briton can redeem the reputation of a white American known for filming a Japanese cadaver. Messner's ethnographic survey of young athletic men led him to conclude that “violent sports as spectacle provide linkages among men in the project of the domination of women, while at the same time helping to construct and clarify differences among different masculinities” (Messner, 79). Messner takes a moment here to elaborate that these "different masculinities" are based primarily on race. If fucking the Other gives an identity "spice", what of the intimate activity of punching the Other? This violent colonial fantasy acts to clarify one fighter as primitive, while the white pugilist becomes an "experienced" figure of biopolitical regulation. As this theory concerns Logan Paul, we see a demonstrated need to escape the legacy of Aokigahara. In order to prove that he is no longer the innocent boy he was on New Years Day, Paul had to accomplish two explicit goals: force his opponent “play the role of the ‘primitive other’”, and develop his own “positional identity” as hero, differentiating “between self and Other” by clinical use of his sharp right jab (Messner, 79). 

At first appearance, the United Kingdom press conference does not go particularly well for Logan Paul. Spurred on by KSI, the primarily British crowd spends much of the press conference throwing items at the stage and loudly chanting “Fuck the Pauls!” In contrast to the swaggering image of a confident Ohio gladiator Paul put off at the Los Angeles press conference, Paul here appears to cower behind the table, never leaving his chair. KSI continues shouting abuse with infrequent interruption until Paul dismisses himself, dropping the microphone on the table as he leaves a defeated man.

Instead of laying low before the fight, Logan Paul posted a vlog and a Tweet explaining that he walked off stage during the U.K. press conference because he is tired of the "fugazi". "KSI," Paul intones solemnly into the camera, "you are the exact person that I am working hard not to become... Every single day, I am working to craft a better version of myself. And you are not" (10:44). Paul goes on to detail and show clips of KSI's past troubles with misogyny and sexual harassment, even while claiming that he is "not going to sit there and talk about" it (13:30). Framed as a defense against KSI's continuing comments regarding Paul's girlfriend, Chloe Bennet, these actions replay the classic fantasy of defending the white woman against the brute and his horde. Paul even takes the time to explictly locate his own misogyny within an old music video, "No Handlebars." By sacrificially deleting this video on camera, Paul purges his misogyny and contains it within the Other: "This type of content no longer represents my brand and the person I am becoming" (15:47). In the response video's final section, Paul addresses the "Face 2 Face" interview as evidence that KSI is delusional and less mature. "I recognize this type of behavior" says Paul, "...you are me, moments before I flew to Japan... You, my friend, are a stepping stone for me to get better" (16:12). KSI becomes an object for Logan Paul to compare to the boy he was in the Japanese forest. By placing himself in opposition to a seemingly misogynistic foreigner while simultaneously asserting that the Aokigahara incident is his singularly defined turning point, Logan Paul has completed his redemption before even stepping into the ring.

In the final face to face interview, both fighters are asked if they will be fighting emotionally. Paul immediately answers that he will be relying on a plan, while KSI notes that "everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face" (KSIvsLogan, Face 2 Face, 10:45). Paul has been painting a narrative of both out-working and out-thinking his opponent throughout the past months, and this distinction of learned strategy becomes a stereotype of boxing Justin D. Garciá conflates with a “culture of the mind” (Garciá, 332). In comparison to Paul's jabs and clinches, KSI’s “warrior style” of throwing wild punches and relying on a “willingness to withstand barrages of punches” is more based in a “culture of the hands” (331-332). Paul takes full advantage of this contrast in his reaction video, noting that KSI is by no means a professional boxer. "Fighting KSI is like fighting a dog," Paul notes, "the dude became animalistic, not a boxer" (Logan Paul Vlogs, Dear KSI, 7:17) This specific mention of KSI as inhuman builds on another of Logan Paul's problematic recurring jokes, in which he compares KSI's laugh to that of the cartoon character Scooby Doo. Paul finishes his analysis stating that KSI "was just throwing haymakers from down here, none of them were, like, legit boxing punches. When I spar, I'm sparring professionals" (7:25). Again, KSI is equated with a scrappy and unprofessional animal, while Paul is a learning and growing young man.

With these problematics established, the only thing left to consider is the aftermath of the match. Messner notes that talented young athletes from minority groups are frequently exploited for their toughness and, “when their bodies are used up, excreted from organized athletics at a young age with no transferable skills” (Messner, 72). KSI makes it clear throughout the process, particularly in the Face 2 Face, that he intends to pursue boxing as a profession, while Paul makes it similarly clear his future is not in fighting. Whether this juxtaposition is intentional or not, Paul’s constructed identity as more than a body able to give and receive punches leaves him unmarked and free to continue onto other projects within entertainment. In contrast, his brawling, Othered opponent is consumed by the ring. 

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